Complete Hand Transplants: Afghan Soldier Gets Fully Functioning Hands After Marathon Surgery In Indian Hospital

An Afghan soldier now has two fully functioning hands, thanks to surgeons in an Indian hospital.

After a marathon surgery that lasted for almost 15 hours, a 30-year-old Afghan military captain from Kandahar, who lost his hands while defusing mines in the war torn country, has two fully functioning arms with all ten digits. While transplants are getting quite common, this is perhaps the first instance where two complete arms were attached.

What’s bizarre about the incident is the fact that the arms don’t belong to the captain. The donor was a 54-year-old brain dead accident victim from Kerala. The captain had lost both his appendages during a routine de-mining operation in Kandahar about three years ago. He has been scouting for hand transplant in several countries. Desperate for a solution, the captain, Abdul Rahim, approached Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) four months ago.

The medical institute roped in 20 surgeons and eight anesthetists to perform the 15-hour operation, but in the end, the Afghan soldier now has two arms, which were once just stubs earlier, shared Subramania Iyer, Professor and Head of the Plastic Surgery department.

“Rahim has regained considerable amount of function of both his hands using them for day-to-day activities. He will need intensive physiotherapy for another 9 to 10 months, for which he will have to stay back in Kochi.”

The operation was quite complex, requiring detailed planning and meticulous execution, continued Iyer.

“Each hand required connecting two bones, two arteries, four veins and about 14 tendons. The immune suppressant drugs were started before the start of the surgery and continued after it.”

Surprisingly, even though complete arm transplants are generally unheard of, the hospital had performed a similar operation not more than four months earlier. The hospital authorities, as well as Rahim, are undoubtedly extremely grateful to the donors and their families.

An Appendage Transplant Is Way Complicated Than An Organ Transplant

Though organ donations aren’t a common norm in India, there have been multiple instances in the country where deceased donors have lent the gift of life to multiple patients. Often the next of kin is quite reluctant to donate organs citing religious reasons or emotional attachments.

Considering the sensitivity of the situation, Hospital medical director Dr. Prem Nair personally counseled the family of the accident victim for the donation and they agreed after confirming that the hands will be replaced by prosthetic limbs to reduce deformity of the dead.

The hospital is glad to report that the earlier patient with similar procedure, “30-year-old Manu is progressing extremely well, doing all routine activities.”

[Image Credit | Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Center]